Diets & Nutrition

6 Effective Health Benefits Of Barberry and Side Effects

What Is Barberry Used For? What Does A Barberry Taste Like? Does Barberry Contain Barberine? What are the health benefits of barberry? In this article we are listing top six health benefits of barberry and its side effects. The fruit kingdom is quite diverse with lots of varieties of fruits growing in different shapes and colors. Fruit develops due to the pollination process taking place in an angiosperm plant. This nature-favored process is the reason why different kinds of fruits or fleshy ovaries develop in flowering plants.

It is due to this pollination process that we get to taste one of the most delicious fruits, berries. Berries are small, fleshy and juicy fruits without a stone in it. According to the study of plant kingdom, berries are a type of fruit that develop from the external layer of the ovary i.e. the pericarp. This makes the fruit so juicy and the pigments in it render this fruit a bright hue.

Amidst the kingdom of berries, some are edible while some are poisonous, some have a sweet taste while others are sour. This difference in the flavour is linked to varying climatic conditions prevailing in different regions. However, there are some berries that grow in almost all parts of the world and have the same taste. One such berry family is the Berberidaceae.

Barberry is the member of this family which has several different species distributed all over the world. The most popular barberry species is the European Barberry or Barberis Vulgaris. Most of the berries of this plantae family grow in South America, Asia and Europe. In other sense, it can be stated that barberries grow in tropical and temperate climatic zones of the earth.

Barberry plants are deciduous shrubs that grow in many native lands. These shrubs bear yellow colored flowers and red colored fleshy and juicy fruits. The barberry fruits are berry shaped and around five to fifteen millimeter in size. They are mostly spherical in shape with beautiful dark red or violet color. The fruits develop from the pericarp of the ovary and contain no stones.

What Is Barberry Used For?

Barberry plants are distributed in many areas and so its uses vary from place to place. Owing to its profound nutrient density, rich colour and flavour,  the berry and all other parts of the barberry shrub have been used since ancient times both as a medicine and a culinary ingredient.

Medicinal Use Of Barberry

The plant contains alkaloids which can inhibit the growth of microorganisms, promote various biochemical reactions within the body and also improve metabolism.  Barberry root and stem are used in traditional medicine to releive a range of health problems including digestive problems, nausea, fever, urinary tract infections and polycystic ovarian syndrome in women. The plant is also used to male tincture to disinfect wounds. Its leaves are used for remedying scurvy.

Other Uses Of Barberry

1. Dying

The stems and the roots were used to make yellow colored dye as it contains soluble tannins and alkaloids. The inner bark has pigments  that were used to stain leather yellow. This was a new herbal dye and is still used for obtaining colors.

2. Flavoring

In Iran, it is used as a flavoring agent in the Persian cuisine (6)  while in Russia, it finds extensive application in the mixed fruit jam. The sour taste adds to its use in the cuisines. It gives a tangy flavour to the food and hence make the dishes more mouth-watering.

3. Ornamental Purpose

Due to the colorful botanical characteristics of barberry plant, it is widely used in landscaping. The flowers, berries and beautiful leaves of the common barberry shrub has tremendous ornamental value and is used extensively for decorating interior spaces.

4. Fencing

The long heightened shrubs are used in agricultural lands  to prevents thieves or burglars from entering since older branches have leaves modified in the form of spines. Barberries are exquisite in color and appearance. So it is used as hedging plants in gardens.

What Does A Barberry Taste Like?

Barberry is a rich source of Vitamin C or citric acid. Due to the abundant proportion of this micro-nutrient, the taste of the plant is a little tart owing to the acid present in it. In ancient cuisine when lemons or limes were not very much popular amongst the civilization, barberries were used for bringing a sour tinge in the food.

How Big Do Barberry Bushes Get?

The barberry bushes are deciduous shrubs growing either in the wild foliage or in the gardens. The height of the shrub varies between three feet to fifteen feet depending upon the species of the barberry.  Berberis thunbergii or commonly known as the Japanese barberry is a low growing shrub with a height of 4 to 6 feet while Berberis julianae or wintergreen barberry grows up to eight feet . This species is mostly found in China. Barberis vulgaris is the tallest growing barberry species that can grow upto a height of 16 feet. Barberis fremontii and barberis haematocarp are other taller varieties of barberry shrub reaching upto 15 feet and 13 feet respectively.

Is Barberry Invasive?

Barberries have always grown in the wilderness of the forests and the foliage. This particular berry family is peculiar in its own type, having several species distributed all over the world. These shrubs have long spiny leaves which render this shrub highly invasive . The shrub has the potential to damage cereal crops because it serves as a host to a fungi which can spread to other plants. This fungi attacks the stems and leaves of cereal crops such as wheat,  barley, rye, etc. Hence, their removal is important for proper cultivation and survival of cereal crops.)

Are All Barberry Shrubs Invasive?

Amongst various species of the Berberry family, Berberis vulgaris and Berberis thunbergii are two main species that are invasive in nature. Berberis vulgaris loves shade and that is why they can easily invade the woodlands for getting shade from their canopies. However, this particular species offers a substantial platform for the growth of wheat rust fungus. This grass fungus destroys wheat and other grains of the same family and that is why the plants are removed even before the seeds could be transferred. Berberis thunbergii is another invasive species of the barberry family that alters the pH level of the soil. The alkaloids in the plants cause the formation and accumulation of nitrate compounds in the soil more than the optimum level. The increased toxicity of the soil results in the loss of organic matter and other important nutrients from the soil. As a result, more weeds start to grow on the land, leaving very little space for the native forest plants. This results in the ecological misbalance of the woodlands. That is why Japanese barberry is removed as soon as the plant starts to grow.

Is Barberry Edible?

Barberry fruits have a typical sour taste, almost equivalent to lime. The fruit is edible and is incorporated in many dishes to add a tangy flavour but the sourness makes it non-palatable in raw form. However, the use of barberry fruit in cuisines is popular in Europe and countries of Central Asia. The rich red colored fruits are rich in Vitamin C and anti-oxidants that taste sweet first but ends up giving a tart flavor to the taste buds. People of the Eurasian subcontinent love the tangy flavor of the berry and that is why they usually use the fruit as a spice. Sprinkling the red colored powder over any cooked dish improves its taste by increasing the tartness, making it more delicious. Iran widely cultivates this berry in their farms. It is still used in Iran as a flavoring item in their cuisine. These tart-tasted berries are used in garnishing the yellow saffron rice dish in Iran where the sourness brings out the special Persian essence in their weddings. It is also used in making jams and mixed berry sweeteners since barberry is rich in pectin. It is usually mixed with sugars for lessening the immense sour taste of the plant.

Does It Contain Barberine?

According to chemical studies, it is found that the prime constituent of the barberry fruit is the alkaloid, berberine. The chemical is a quaternary ammonium salt that is present in many fruits like grapes, tree turmeric, etc. The chemical renders a typical yellowish color of the berry plant. It is due to the presence of this yellow colored organic alkaloid that yellow dye was obtained from the shoots and the roots of the plant in earlier days. The presence of this isoquinoline alkaloid has made barberry beneficial for a number of disorders. However, studies are still ongoing as to how to use the clinical advantages of the berberine in the fruit for humans. One of the main hindrance scientists are facing is the low bioavailability.

What Are The Health Benefits Of Barberry?

The presence of berberine in this fruit has made it beneficial for remedying many disorders. The fruit, root and bark of barberry plant are used in traditional medicine to get relief from a hoard of health disorders. Here are some health benefits of barberry shrub.

What Are The Health Benefits Of Barberry?

1. Enhances Cardiovascular And Neurological Health

It is believed that the plant has alkaloid chemical within it, berberine, that helps in reducing the chances of cardiac arrhythmia. Cardiac arrhythmia refers to all conditions wherein the heart rate is not considered normal. It is either too fast, too slow or displays other signs such as skipped beats. According to a study, it is proved that barberry induces certain biochemical reactions that prolongs the neurogenic refractory period. This causes a considerable gap between the next atrial contractions thereby improving the heart rate.  Barberine plays a significant role in improving the heart rate in people suffering from ventricular fibrillation by preventing increment in the sodium and calcium level in the blood serum. Still, the drug is not used by humans. Studies until now reveal that barberry can be used to potentially reduce cardiological risks along with neurological conditions (25) in humans. Crude aqueous extract of the plant can cure problems like hypertension, irregular heartbeats, epilepsy, convulsions, tachycardia, etc (26) . Though the concept is still hypothetical, research is in full swing to utilize the multifariousl medical advantage of the species.

2. Slows Ageing

Barberry herb contains some of the best antioxidants as declared by some researchers. They tested the barberry variety with 109 other plants and found that the former contained the best antioxidants. This anti-oxidizing property of barberries helps in slowing ageing process. Another compound called barberine found in barberries has tremendous benefits for overall health. Owing to this factor, barberine exyracted from this berry can be successfully used as an anti-ageing supplement. Regular consumption of barberry,  especially the oregon grape barberry in moderate amounts helps fight the effects of free radicals to combat premature ageing.

3. Improves Digestion

The barberine content in the roots of barberry shrub is best suited for fighting off microbes in the gastrointestinal tract of humans(30).  The alkaloid prevents the growth of microorganisms in the intestine that cause digestive disorders like E.coli, cholera, salmonella, etc. It prevents the attack of these microorganisms on the human cells, thereby preventing them from affecting the cells. This reduces the chances of infection in the intestine such as diarrhea caused by bacteria and parasitic infections in the intestine.

4. Curbs Inflammation

The use of the barberry fruits in traditional medicines revealed that the alkaloids present in the plant could effectively reduce various inflammatory symptoms in our body. Berbamine, the alkaloid found in barberries has notable effects in managing chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and other respiratory and gastrointestinal inflammatory disorders.

5. Manage Diabetes

It is proved that barberries can effectively control diabetes in humans. Barberry can effectively reduce the blood glucose level and also normalize the lipid metabolism. Scientists have declared that the working efficiency of barberry plant is much better than the usual drug, metformin, taken for diabetes. Berberine alkaloid controls the adipokine secretion in the blood to lower glucose levels. This is a cell- signaling protein which is known to improve body’s sensitivity to insulin which in turn makes it more efficient in maintaining the blood glucose level.

6. Improve Liver Function

Barberries are very much effective for maintaining proper health and functioning of the liver. It induces proper bile secretion and also the passage of the bile into the intestine, thereby  resulting in proper digestion of food in the gastrointestinal tract.The alkaloids in the plant help in counter-attacking the toxicity of harmful chemicals piled up in the liver and promote liver function. With proper bile secretion, the health of the kidney is also invariably regulated. Optimum proper liver health ensures that the nitrogenous wastes do not remain in blood for too long.

What Are The Side Effects Of Barberry?

Though barberry may be useful for human health if consumed in moderation,  an overdose of the same may turn fatal and requires immediate medical help. Intake of more than 400mg of barberry extract is likely to cause adverse reactions owing to the presence of barberine in it. We have explained some prominent side effects that may arise due to barberry overdose.

What Are The Side Effects Of Barberry?

1. Nausea

If your intake of this herb exceeds the recommended quantities it may cause stomach aches and vomiting. The intensity of the symptoms are closely linked to the amount of excess consumption.

2. Nosebleeds

Barberries can cause nosebleeds by dilating the vessels in the nose if consumed in excess. Hence one should exercise caution regarding the dosage of this herb to lessen the chance of bleeding from blood vessels in your body.

3. Jaundice

Barberry is strictly prohibited for infants since it may increase the bile or bilirubin release in their body thereby causing jaundice.

4. Miscarriage

The intake of barberry during pregnancy is not advisable as it may lead to uterine contractions thereby increasing the likelyhood of a miscarriage in pregnant women.

5. Interacts With Medicines

If the person is on cardiovascular medications like antihistamine tablets, hypertension medicines, etc, use of barberry can prove to be fatal as this plant is known to interact with these medicines and may lead to adverse reactions if this helb is taken with these medicines.

Is Barberry Poisonous?

Barberry plants are not poisonous. However, if the root of the plants where the alkaloid berberine is concentrated is consumed in excess, it can have adverse effects. The berries are not poisonous but if they are taken in excess or in concentrated form, one can suffer serious side effects such as vomiting, diarrhea or cardiac failure due to barberine overdose. The active ingredient barberine, found in barberries is known to cause fatal poisoning in humans resulting in death in some cases.

What Are Dried Barberries?

Dried barberries are small, round and red colored dried fruits that are sold in the grocery stores. The water is evaporated from the dried red colored fruits and they are packed in airtight packets. This keeps the dried fruits fresh and makes them a delicious and tangy flavored snack.

These dried fruits are quite popular in European countries and Central Asian countries, especially in Iran. Moreover, the dried fruits are also used as spices and are added to dishes to get a tart flavour.

Generally, these berries are soaked in water before adding them to dishes. Once the dried fruits absorb water, they are treated as fruits and are chopped together with other vegetables and then used as stuffing or as a flavouring agent in dishes.

What Is A Good Substitute For Barberries?

The rich red Iranian barberries are not available everywhere. So in order to have the tart- taste of the barberries, dried currants can be a good option. The only thing that needs to be done while using the currants is to ensure that the dried fruits are soaked in lemon water instead of normal water. The lemon water adds a tinge of sourness to the dish to replicate the sourness of barberries.

You have read all about top benefits of barberry and it’s side effects. Please share this informative post to your friends and known ones so that they can also take the advantage of this article. Also please share on whatsapp, facebook and twitter as well. Kindly leave your valuable comments in the comment section.

To Top